We’ve Come A Long Way Baby: The Evolution Of Sportswear


By Sreya Sanyal from THREAD SG

Walk into any gym and you’ll be greeted with scores of sweaty people dressed in sleek black crop tops and fitting leggings. Fitness fashion has certainly evolved over the decades, with modern workout gear being a far cry from the leisurely skirts and blouses of the early 20th century.

The Early Twentieth Century — All Style And No Substance

Visible signs of physical exertion such as sweating were deemed unladylike during the turn of the century, so women who wanted to exercise usually wore billowing skirts and pants (known as bloomers) and frilly petticoats while performing the simplest of exercises.

During the 30s, gym clothes evolved to be form-fitting, yet impractical. Women looked as neat as a pin, and often played tennis in knee-length skirts. Handheld fitness gadgets such as dumbbells made their way into the mainstream. The 40s and 50s saw the return of baggy clothing-ladies often wore loose trousers or skirts paired with sweaters, working out hard on stationary bikes.


Swinging Sixties — Technology Takes Over

Formfitting workout gear made a return, but this time allowed for actual exercise to be done. Women wore mini shorts and dresses and worked themselves into a sweat on resistance machines. The popularity of portable music devices such as the Walkman made for excellent gym companions, and suddenly everyone was jumping on the exercise bandwagon!


Psychedelic Seventies — So Many Tracksuits


Every self-respecting gym-going woman/man/child owned at least one brightly striped tracksuit-usually in loud shades of orange, blue and green. Fortunately, the tracksuit has managed to retain its relevance after all these decades.


Awesome Eighties and Naughty Nineties — Let’s Get Physical

Olivia Newton-John’s breakout single set the tone for the next two decades to come. No one was exempt from the joy/horror of watching gymrats parade around in blindingly shiny leotards, neon tights, scrunchies and leg warmers. Pastel shades such as pink, light blue and sea green reigned supreme. Jazzercise and synchronised cardio never seemed so stylish.


Turn Of The Century

Yoga pants were so popular during the early and mid-00s that they became a fashion staple even outside of the gymnasium-possibly paving the way for modern day athleisure. Workout gear had finally evolved to become more functional.


Activewear Everywhere


Functionality and aesthetics emerged as major concerns for gym goers, who were seeking outfits that helped them look good while sweating it out. As more and more young people embraced active lifestyles, donning gym clothes in public became publicly acceptable. Thanks to technological advancements, modern activewear has evolved to work with the user’s body to ensure the best results.


Which of these eras do you resonate the most with? Let us know in the comments below!